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Three-game winning streak for much-maligned Johnnies

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After a 64-62 win against Providence Saturday at Carnesecca Arena, the Red Storm men's basketball team has won three straight Big East games for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Just like that, St. John's is right back in Big East tournament contention after a stretch where it lost six conference games in a row, including seven of its first eight.Senior point guard Eugene Lawrence's defended three-pointer with the shot clock running down found the bottom of the net, capping a 12-0 run with 29.7 seconds left that put the Johnnies up 62-57 and whipped the crowd of 5,868 - the highest attendance in Jamaica in two seasons - into a frenzy. "Eugene Lawrence by far deserves that, he by far deserves to make that shot," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "He's by far one of the toughest kids I've coached in my life. He's tough. He takes a lot of heat and he comes back stronger every day. I'm really happy for him."During the 12-0 run St. John's (10-12, 4-7) had its share of big plays. Sean Evans (12 points and nine rebounds), who made only his third start of the season, began the run with a layup after Justin Burrell (10 points), who was on the laying on the floor after a collision, kicked him the ball.Burrell gave St. John's the lead, 59-57, with a reverse layup that stayed on the rim for what seemed like a minute."They had the ball freeze on the rim and then Looie blew it in from up in the stands," Providence coach Tim Welsh said, referring to legendary St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca. "And then Lawrence threw up a Chris Mullin shot at the end of the shot clock."Larry Wright led St. John's with 16 points and the two-headed point guard duo of Malik Boothe and Eugene Lawrence (10 points) combined for 11 assists and only three turnovers.Fresh Meadows native Weyinmi Efejuku had a chance to tie the game for Providence with two free throws with .1 second left, but missed the first. Efejuku missed the second on purpose, but the clock started too early - when the ball touched the rim - giving Providence no time for a tip-in to tie the game."I felt like I was at IS 8," Welsh said, referring to the legendary Jamaica summer league. "[The referees] ran out faster than Knicks fans from the Garden. It's ridiculous."Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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